Innersource is more than a way for teams to code. As Ki Lee, Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton, said at a GitHub Enterprise Summit, “It’s a cultural shift.”
“I’ve always loved reusing other people’s code,” he continued. “That’s how I got my work done fast—and then I’d take that code to my next project.” Lee’s early experiences with sharing code are reflected in today’s development environment. Developers are working together to complete more tasks, more quickly.
This spirit is especially noticeable in their new hires according to Lee: “The college graduates we’re hiring want to do something better and bigger, in collaboration with each other.”
The collaborative cultural shift has been key in attracting young talent at Booz Allen Hamilton. Lee also attributes faster delivery times, increased quality, and decreased costs to innersource practices—rare perks, especially in the Federal space.
“We as a Federal IT services organization support thousands of projects across every Federal agency. The government is paying for that time and time again,” Lee said. “Why can’t we reuse code we wrote for National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and use it for National Security Agency? Why can’t we reuse something that was open sourced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency into the Health and Human Services Department?”
Lee compared their development to the way other apps are built. “Think about all of the companies reusing Google Maps, Yelp, OpenTable, and almost every app. They’re reusing that information and innovating on top of that. We’re also looking for ways to reuse things and make things better.”
Lee focuses on a few strategies to make innersource commonplace in the firm: process, training, and tooling.
A collaborative mindset is built into development processes from day one on Lee’s team. He asks: “Why do you want to do the same thing over and over again? How many different security frameworks do we need? How many common operating pictures do we need? How many cops do we need?”
Building on that “reuse first” mindset, the firm also invested in a tool built on GitHub to provide intelligent code discovery for their developer community. According to Lee, the firm is prioritizing informed decision making among developers, supported by tooling. With this integrated layer, Booz Allen provides team members with more access to sources and quality checks, leveraging data to surface the right code at the right time.
“The acceleration of technology and innovation is going at such a fast pace that we have to change”, Lee said. “It’s critical for organizations to take their software development into the open source movement, and institutionalize it within our own organizations—as well as figure out how we can take what we develop internally and open source it.”
As Booz Allen demonstrates, when innersource is integrated into a team’s culture, it can help organizations attract talent and get more done at less cost. While Lee’s innersource strategies may not be the right fit for your organization, they may be a good starting point.